Monday, 22 July 2013

Free isn’t always cheap: the true story of solar power

I was recently asked about the viability of solar power in our energy future, and to be honest, the technology is widely mid-understood. Yes, solar power is carbon and fossil fuel-free, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a pragmatic energy alternative.

In June, the U.S. Energy Information Administration analyzed the numbers and published their findings on the future costs of generating electricity. Basically, what they discovered was that, when it comes to "alternative" means, solar is just about the most expensive form of energy you can get.

Check out the graph below and you’ll see exactly how costly “free” energy can be:

You can calculate the cost of generating a kilowatt hour of electricity by tallying the cost of building a facility, operating and maintaining it, paying for the fuel it consumes, then comparing this to the electricity the facility is expected to produce in its lifetime.

Solar photovoltaic power costs about 22 cents a kWh. Solar thermal power, where sunbeams are reflected and concentrated on a heat-retaining medium like graphite or salt for later use in generating electricity, is even more expensive -- about 32 cents a kwh!

As you can see, basically every other form of alternative energy production is more affordable than solar. The Hoover Dam, for example, wholesales the electricity it generates for as little as 1.6 cents a kWh. Now that’s cheap!  The European Wind Energy Association claims that some projects are generating electricity around 5 cents a kWh. Then there's geothermal energy, which harnesses the differential between near-constant subterranean temperatures and surface temperatures to create energy.

But will solar get cheaper in the future? Don’t count on it.

Although the price of panels fell 53% last year, the unit cost makes up only about 33% of the total cost of building, operating, and maintaining a solar plant. Panel mountings, solar inverters, transmission cables, paying a construction crew, leasing property – these costs add up!

If you’re really looking for an affordable energy alternative, check out and learn more about the carbon-free, poly-crystalline SH-Box. 

[ solar power, U.S. Energy Information Administration, European Wind Energy Association, nrglab sh-box, sh-box, nrglab pte ltd, nrglab asia, nrglab ana shell, nrglab ]

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